Letter: Marriage Bill gives couples a choice of places to wed

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Sir: In her open letter to me (25 July), Virginia Ironside is kind enough to say she has always been on my side. I have long been a fan of hers, too, but on the matter of my Marriage Bill she is 100 per cent wrong, largely, I imagine, because she appears not to have read it.

The Bill in no way 'makes marriage easier'. Nothing in respect of the formal legal preliminaries of marriage or marriage itself will be changed. All the Bill will do is increase choice over where a civil marriage can take place.

Currently, about half the marriages in England and Wales take place in Register Offices, but for some couples a Register Office may not be the ideal location for their wedding. They may want to have more guests than the Register Office can accommodate. They may want a more memorable setting for a ceremony that is of unique importance in any couple's life. The Bill will simply allow local authorities to license additional suitable public premises for civil marriages. Allowing a wedding to be celebrated at, say, Chester Castle, as well as Chester Register Office, will do nothing to undermine the institution of marriage.

There is no possibility of bungee jumping or weddings in hot air balloons. The Bill, and regulations made under it, will ensure that marriages take place in appropriate permanent premises, in the presence of witnesses as well as the officiating registration officers, and there will be public access for those who wish to make legal objections to be able to do so.

It is because the measure is sane and sensible, and has been widely consulted upon, that it has received all-party support and will, I hope, reach the Statute Book later in the year.

Yours faithfully,


MP for City of Chester (Con)

House of Commons

London, SW1

26 July